22 October 2008

The American Marksman

The American Marksman gets some love from the buttoned-down British press in The Economist:
The belief that its riflemen are the world’s best marksmen runs through America’s military history. It dates back at least to the American War of Independence (1775-83) when sharpshooters born and bred on the frontier killed a disproportionate number of British officers. Their long shots were effective but their deliberate targeting was nonetheless deplored by the British army, whose soldiers armed with muskets advanced in formation in full sight of the enemy.
George Washington was in two minds about the tactic. He expected his riflemen to “skulk” in the Indian manner but ordered that if any other kind of soldier “shall attempt to skulk, hide himself or retreat from the enemy without orders of his commanding officer, he will instantly be shot down as an example of cowardice.” By the mid-19th century American riflemen, whether hidden or not, were internationally famed as crack shots. As Alexander Rose, a military historian, shows in his rigorous account, this reputation had sound statistical support. An infantryman on the Unionist side in the American civil war (1861-65) was, on his reckoning, five times as good at hitting his foe as his Mexican, British or Continental European counterpart.

By: Brant

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